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Climate policy in Dutch municipalities

organisation, policy, implementation and performance



Despite the growing body of research on (the importance of) climate governance at the local level, no extensive analysis exists of climate mitigation and adaptation policy, its organisation and performance in local authorities in the Netherlands. This research aims to fill this gap by answering the research question: How is climate change mitigation and adaptation anchored in the organisation, policy and implementation of the biggest Dutch municipalities (>100.000 inhabitants) and how does this influence their performance? Indicators were formulated for the level of anchoring in organisation, policy and implementation. 25 out of the 26 biggest Dutch municipalities were interviewed and analysed with regard to these indicators, taking a multi-level system perspective. Performance was measured by asking municipalities about their own and others’ performance. The four municipalities with the best output-performance; Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Tilburg, have been used as ‘reference municipalities’ to find linkages between the level of anchoring and performance. Climate issues appeared to be low to medium anchored in organisation, medium in policy and above medium in implementation, in the 25 municipalities.

Based on the higher performance in the reference group and their uniform and higher score on some of the indicators for anchoring, other municipalities could strengthen their internal organisation by having a central point of management/coordination (also for better monitoring) and a core team throughout the municipal organisation to involve different departments. Trainings and, in some cases, checklists or other tools could help in this integration process. This can, when fitting the culture, be steered both internally and externally by other actors within a more organised structure for structural cooperation with a broad range of actors, something that worked out for the reference municipalities.

An important finding within this thesis is that in most of the cases one cannot speak of integration of mitigation and adaptation in the climate organisation or policy. There appears to be a tendency however of placing mitigation and adaptation under a broader sustainability programme, which can provide an opportunity, but only when better operationalisation ensures that adaptation measures (more than water management only) become less ad hoc. The second important finding is that currently most municipalities still have their climate/sustainability programme centrally arranged. They work however towards decentralisation, seeing their climate organisation as a temporal organisation. A combination of centralisation and decentralisation is, also in future, thought to be most effective. The cooperation of municipalities has already shifted from focusing on specific companies to having a broader view, a promising trend.

Although this thesis shows that some municipalities work towards externalisation, the bonds with the central internal structure, that could still steer and start initiatives where needed, should stay strong. Another important finding is the trend of regionalisation, especially with regard to mitigation which currently has a focus on ‘action’. Since the support from the national government seems to be down-sized, this trend provides an opportunity. While functional regions help to prevent spatial mismatch of climate issues, regional cooperation, which can be stimulated by provinces and national networks, can also become useful in terms of provisioning for municipalities that do not have the capacity to turn to e.g. EU for project funding. Frontrunners should keep or even strengthen their (inter)national focus and disseminate knowledge where possible in the region. Hopefully this will get the fly-wheel, in which municipalities are strongly investing, really going.


1. Introduction
1.1. Background and problem description
1.2. Research aim
1.3. Research questions
1.4. Methodology
1.5. Scope and limitations
1.6. Outline report

2. Conceptual framework and theoretical background
2.1. Part 1: The local dimension
2.2. Part 2: Vertical and horizontal interactions

3. Empirical research part 1: The local dimension
3.1. The theoretical Dutch local playing field
3.2. Anchoring in organisation
3.3. Anchoring in policy
3.4. Anchoring in implementation
3.5. Performance

4. Empirical research part 2: Vertical and horizontal interactions
4.1. Vertical interactions
4.2. Horizontal interactions

5. Discussion

6. Conclusions

7. Recommendations
7.1. Recommendations for municipalities
7.2. Recommendations for other actors
7.3. Recommendations for further research

8. Reference List
Annex I: 100.000+ municipalities
Annex II: Interview questions in-depth interviews
Annex III: Interview questions municipalities
Annex IV: Formal structures for structural cooperation
Annex V: Output-performance examples

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